The Cause Of France's Weakness
Mkhael de In liedoyere
EVEN the political observe'
most disposed to view international rivalry as a quarrel between good and good, rather than good and bad, can hardly fail to realise that the Communists in France are prepared to disrupt the whole life of the country rather than come to any terms which would leave them short, of the absolute power they seek in the name of a foreign aggressor. Yet this is not the whole story. The Communists have been quick to realise the political and social weaknesses of a country which, when all is said and done, has not managed to find a political equilibrium in theof the last century and
The political order in France in modern times has largely failed to represent the deep sense of the people. and as a consequence the spirit of faction. class and vested interest has maintained a strength unequalled in civilised countries. Because of this France has not enjoyed an era of slowly e.developing social reform, but rather been the victim of violent and undigested social ups and downs according to the strength of the rival interests. In these conditions the Communists with their appeal to the victims, their clear purpose and their foreign aid have had little difficulty in gaining such a hold that no constitutional means of meeting it can be found. Even in the circumstances of war faction divided France and enabled the Communists to exploit for their own ends the high spirit of Resistance.
As a result of this long-enduring weakness the Communists even today are in a position to base their revolution on genuine grievance and to deny to the country the chance of fully remedying those grievances.
Looking Back to Petah'
THOSE who (like this paper) refused to join in the bitter condemnation of Main and the Vichy experiment may well prove justified by the events. Vichy, at any rate. sought to root a political and social order in certain realities: in the religious and cultural traditions of the country. in the family. in the dignity of work performed
under just conditions. Such roots correspond to the natural values of the average Frenchman, whereas the revolutionary abstractions of liberty, fraternity and equality have proved to be no more than words which can conveniently disguise any spirit of faction.
We have little doubt that de Gaulle to-day realises how much soundness there was in the Vichy experiment. though it is, of course, idle to dilate on the might-havebeens when a pattern was inevitably destroyed under the pressure. of poeerful wartime impulses.
however. de Gaulle himself is the first of the victims caused by the war, and he is to-day inhibited from constructive action simply because he cannot afford to do anything along the lines of Vichy. Yet it remains the truth that until France can again find leaders with the courage to mould a political order representative of the best in Frenchmen—and how good that can be ! —France will know no settlement and peace.
The Issue in Europe
FROM a wider angle all Europe
• and indeed all the world are involved in the outcome of the Cornmunist assault in France and Italy. The progress of the London Conference is likely to depend on what
happens across the Channel. If order cannot be restored in France, Italy first and then Germany will be forced by Russia into centres of disaffection leading sooner or later
to ' Communist protection. The smaller countries will be unable to refuse to align their politics to Soviet convenience, as has happened
in Central Europe. Only Britain and Spain—strange connexion—will be in a position to stand out for a time against the Communist conquest. Nor is it easy to see how any American financial help will then remedy the situation. • American dollars might in the end win another war. but dollars will prove as unable to oust Communism from countries in which its hold is strong as they
• proved impotent to weaken Hitler or Mussolini. The Soviet realises well enough how important it is to anticipate any American aid, and that is why it is throwing everything short of a cants belli into the struggle to-day.
Call it "cold " war or " white " war or indeed war plain and simple, such is the nature of the struggle now being fought out. it is every whit as vital as the war against Fascism. We believe that once again the immediate danger will be overcome, if only because of the now deep unpopularity of the Commun• ists; but the despairing thing is the refusal on the part of anyone to look ahead and build up at length an order in Western Europe healthy enough to resist the totalitarian disease in good time.
Why cannot this be done ? The short answer is quite simply the persistent refusal of the West to look again to Christianity as the necessary moral inspiration and foundation of .ordered freedom. Yet until
modern societies arc prepared to acknowledge thc disastrous mistake initiated at the Reformation. they must sooner or later fall victims to the only logical alternative to real religion, namely, technocratic tyranny.
Tragi-Coniedy in Palestine
SO greatly are we concentrating
on the immediate issues in Europe that few people are able to take in the almost ludicrous behaviour of the United Nations in insisting on a partition in Palestine without having the remotest idea how to enforce it. Britain. with all the resources at her disposal and all her prestige with both parties, has proved unable 'either to solve the quarrel between the Jews and the Arabs or to maintain harmony in Palestine. Why in Heaven's name does anyone suppose that the disarmed United Nations who represent no one except the balance of lobbying international factions are going to achieve what we have proved incapable of handling ? Only in a settled world could there have ever been any chance of implementing the decision to found a National Home for the Jews in the midst of the Arab world. This act of force, like so many others. could have been carried through under the aegis of widespread law and order. But the moment everyone resorts to force. then the Jews must stand or fall according to the degree of force they dispose of in a world where force is the master. Theirs is indeed a hazardous future, and it is hard to see what real difference the sanction of the United Nations will make. Except indeed, to stir up the muck in which Moscow likes to fish.
A Valuable Lesson
THE details of the White Paper cutting proposed capital investment expenditure should not cause surprise. On the contrary it has long been realised — and often said in these columns — that the constructional plans for new towns, new railways, new buildings, new homes, new everything, entertained since the war in this country bore little or no relation to the country's economic position. Today, sheer lack of ready wealth has forced the cutting dom., of everything that will not prove an immediate asset. quickly convertible into consumable goods; but when the grandiose planning was done. we had nothing more tangible to go on than borrowed money. However hard the lesson may be, nothing but good can come of the realisation by politicians and people that we can have nothing to enjoy unless we put in the work needed to earn that surplus which can be converted into amenities and luxuries. If all goes well—and it is not going too badly at present—that time may not be very long postponed, but the less we think about a wonderful future that may or may not prove possible, and the more we think of hard work for absolute necessities the quicker our dreams will come true.
THOSE who listened to the B.B C. debate last Friday o.i the sigiiificance of the by-elections. will have learnt again the old truth that almost anything can be proved by the ingenious manipulation of
figures. Even the Liberal secaker could find some ground for optimism!
Our view—for what it in worth, .ind it is based on a hunch rather than on figures — is that Acland scraped home at Gravesend because he is an extremely able politician with a genuine high idealism. Despite the long record of successful revivalism. of one kind or another, in this country's history, far too many politicians underrate the effects of an appeal above the material level. This may be because far too few politicians are interested in that higher level. There is, as we have always said, a great deal of idealism in British Socialism, and when a Labour politician is himself animated by a genuine spiritual idealism he has the best chance of retaining or gaining any marginal seat. The Conservatives, for some reason or othei, either have little spiritual faith in their creed or know not how to express it. Until they learn better, they will not find it easy to make the best of the opportunities coming to them,
The Death Penalty
WE are glad that the Govern ment has left the decision on the abolition of capital punishment to a free vote of the House. It is an extremely difficult question, and many pebple feel that days when human life is reckoned so cheap and when crime, whether international, national or domestic, is so frequent, are not suitable ones for this experiment. On the other hand, there would be a fine challenge to the spirit of the times in a sincere reform along these lines. But its sincerity would depend on an equally courageous challenge to the whole cheapening of human life which is the result fundamentally of this century's denial of the sacredness of something which God created for an end far transcending the average international and political motive.